I had nearly forgotten about that, when Maktaaq, on the Metroblogging Vancouver site, posted an exerpt from the Province regarding Hope‘s status as not only Rambotown, but the Chainsaw Carving Capital.
For those not in the know, I spent my teenaged years (from one month after I turned 13, to one month after I turned 19) living in the town of Hope. It was definitely different from the shelters of Greater Vancouver Suburbia that had been my home both before, and after I lived there.
A snippet from the Rambotown website:
Besides, the town of Hope where the film takes place is a nice place too. Even if you’re not interested in the movie, it’s definitely worth a visit and you can spend a great time there. So to let you take part in my experiences and to give you a little insight in the making of “First Blood” in Hope, I did what I`ve always wanted to do: A website about “First Blood”…
Funny, a “nice place” where you can “spend a great time” isn’t exactly how I remember it.
Warning, philosophical recollecting and reminiscing ahead…
One fateful summer (1998), I worked as an employee of the Hope & District Chamber of Commerce in the Tourist Info Centre. My days were taken up instructing German Tourists who wanted to see “Zee HHHHRRRRambo Breeeeedge” up the road past my house, where they were undoubtedly underwhelmed by the unauspicious old trestle bridge that marked the way out of town, toward the Othello Tunnels.
I also directed more people than I can count on the walking tour around town, complete with handheld map, to see the chainsaw carvings strategically placed around town.
It’s hard for me to see how and why these things hold such appeal to tourists, since their meanings are so strongly different to me.
Rambo: First Blood is not an action thriller, it’s the background soundtrack to that summer, as it played on a constant loop in the museum attached to my workspace. It is the soundtrack to my friend Sean coming out, to the first boss who actively disliked me for no reason I could fathom, to the first girl I kissed on a dare at a party.
The Bridge is where Fred, the insane schoolbus driver almost tossed our entire neighbourhood worth of kids into the Coquihalla river, since he decided to play chicken with another oversize vehicle on the bridge at the same time.
The Bridge is also the closest landmark to Sucker’s Creek – officially a salmon spawning habitat, but known to the locals as a pretty good beach, and accessible swimming hole.
The original Chainsaw Carving in Memorial park is the site of my one and only teenaged fistfight, brought on by nothing more than the fact that a few “local girls” didn’t seem to like the fact that I was from “somewhere else” and decided that was reason enough to count me as someone deserving of alienation, bullying, and eventually an all-out brawl (in which I managed to hold my own, thankyouverymuch). The fact that my mom insisted on pressing criminal charges didn’t help my social situation much after the fact.
The Tunnels are where we’d gather, no-goods and miscreants, to drink bootlegged liquor, smoke any variety of substances, and generally loiter away from the prying eyes of parents and others who were insistent on “ruining our fun.” Especially since there was no community centre (that came a few years later), movie theatre, arcade, skate park (again, a later development) or any other place for bored youth to spend their ample free-time.
And Hope itself, was not a “nice place to spend some time” – it never will be for me. It will always be where I learned what life is like for people who think they have no options, and settling is the standard. Where the First Nations cycles of abuse and poverty have names and go to school with me. Where small-town insiderness kept outside possibilities of prosperity and improvement at bay, out of nothing but fear of the unknown. Where the smart, funny kid that came to my brothers’ birthday party doesn’t succeed as my brothers did, but ends up a High School dropout whose biggest claim to fame is a spot on a documentary about how his life has turned to shit. A place I consider more of a trap than a refuge.
And now it’s been longer than the entire time I’ve lived there, since I’ve been back. I just have no reason to go. I’ve long-since lost touch with any friends that were there, family has moved away. It’ll be a little over two years until my High School reunion, which I’ll attend, more out of curiosity than anything.
But it will always be the place where I learned from my community who and what I definitely am not (closed-minded, sheltered, afraid), and more importantly who and what I am (empathetic, ambitious, strong) capable of being.